The government’s chief medical officer has warned that new local lockdown restrictions to be brought in in the most severe cases will not work on their own.
Just hours after they were unveiled by Boris Johnson, Professor Chris Whitty said he was “not confident” they would be enough to curtail the spread of the disease.
Just one area in England has, so far, been classified as “very high” risk.
From Wednesday all bars, pubs, and gyms in Merseyside will have to close.
But the area will also be subject to other limitations not included in the restrictions published by the government.
Standing beside the prime minister at a special press conference to set out the new measures, Prof Whitty said he was “not confident” that the Tier 3 restrictions would be enough to get on top of the virus on their own.
He also hinted that many of those who shielded earlier this year would not be asked to do the same this time around.
An announcement on a new shielding scheme is expected imminently.
Prof Whitty said: “People who have been previously on the shielding group are at greater risk, and we would advise them always to take greater precautions.
“We also recognise that there were significant difficulties and often mental distress and loneliness for people who were put into shielding. We are trying to deal with that in the way that we approach shielding over the next phase.”
Mr Johnson warned that rising coronavirus cases and hospital admissions were flashing like “dashboard warnings in a passenger jet” as he set out the new three-tier system.
There were more coronavirus patients in hospital than when the UK went into lockdown in 23 March, the prime minister said.
“These figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet and we must act now,” he said.